Beginner's Guide to Interactive Fiction with Inform 7
The design and implementation of interactive fiction (i.e., text-based computer games) began in the 1970s. At that time, games were written in general-purpose programming languages by professional programmers and/or computer science majors in universities.
In more recent years, specialized languages have been developed for authoring interactive fiction (called "IF" for short). These languages, and the compiler software that they use, are available as free downloads. IF programming languages are widely used by hobbyist programmers, many of whom have little or no training in computer science. However, most IF languages closely resemble traditional programming languages such as C. As a result, they can be rather intimidating for those who have no experience in programming.
Inform 7 (website) presents an entirely new approach to IF authorship, one that has proven to have wide appeal to new authors. In Inform 7, the author can write in a manner that closely approximates normally written English. Certain special conventions have to be followed, and Inform 7's version of English is less tolerant of grammatical ambiguities than English itself. This is because, in the final analysis, Inform 7 is still a programming language. Computer programming requires precision after all.
Nonetheless, Inform 7 is an important development in IF. Inform 7 gives people who have never done any programming and are only marginally computer-literate a great set of tools with which to write their own text-based games. This guide is aimed at helping new users learn the language as well as the tools that come with the official app.
The Inform 7 app can be downloaded at its website – which holds multiple additional tools that can help to manage the content and flow of the adventure. Also, there are additional editors for using Inform 7 in that allows people to program via a web browser:
- Playfic for Inform 7 (exclusively): a good introduction to learning the language without having to download anything, and with an online platform to share creations with other people.
- Borogrove, another online editor with multiple other languages – another good place to experiment and create with the language, and decide if it's right for you.